Interview with the Pains of Being Pure at Heart, at Daniel Street this Week

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The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
Twin Shadow and The Stepkids. 7 p.m., May 2. Daniel Street Club, 21 Daniel St., Milford. $13-$15. 203-877-4446, danielstreetclub.com, manicproductions.org.

 

Kip Berman talks at great length about the influences, motivations and history that guide his New York indie-rock quartet, the Pains of Being Pure at Heart. Composed, knowledgeable and thoughtful, Berman contemplates his last answer, then suddenly explodes in mock frustration.

“All my descriptions are really boring,” he says after soundchecking the band's Portland, Ore., show. “I should be like, ‘Yeah, we knew exactly what we wanted. We wanted to turn the world upside down and reject all the fucking paradigms of society and be like, ‘Fuck you, rock establishment!' instead of ‘We didn't know how to record a snare drum.' We don't have a look-at-our-dicks mentality.”

Although there is a sonic disparity between Belong and the Pains' more genteel 2009 debut, Berman notes that the two-year gap was less important in establishing Belong's current profile and more important in generating some serious self-evaluation.

“First and foremost, the experience of touring consistently and realizing how boring our songs were to most people,” Berman says with a laugh. “A lot were written before the first album came out, with an expectation that the first album was going to be ignored and not considered good enough. They were composed a lot of times out of fear and wanting to be better than ourselves.”

Berman has earned his sense of accomplishment, not just concerning Belong but for the Pains' impressive progress since they assembled to play for keyboardist Peggy Wang's birthday party in 2007 and chose to stay together. Since then, the Pains have released two well-received albums, a handful of EPs and singles and attracted an increasingly rabid fan base. Berman has yet to discover any bigger surprise than the band's continued existence and success.

“We grew up listening to bands that we loved and were important to us, who never reached an audience beyond a narrow band of people,” Berman says. “We're just grateful that we get to be a band.”

Berman namechecks plenty of bands, some as influences (Smashing Pumpkins, Weezer, Nirvana, Jesus and Mary Chain), others as reference points (the White Stripes, Orange Juice, Velvet Underground). It's not difficult to connect the dots to the Pains of Being Pure at Heart's sound, but it's equally easy to pick out their points of departure. They've been described as shoegaze, but the Pains are delirious where the genre is dour; perhaps skygaze is more appropriate. Ultimately, the Pains aren't particularly interested in what people say, they're just happy doing what they do.

“I was in bands that never played a show outside of the zip code I lived in,” Berman says. “I didn't have any expectation that this band would be any different. So much of it is good luck and there's no explanation for why some things happen and other things don't. There's something to be said for perseverance; you can't expect good things to happen if you don't make any effort on your own. I feel proud — not proud in the sense that we're better than other people, but proud in that we accomplished something that is the full realization of the kind of people we are and the music we love and the things we want to express.”

 

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